True joy is possible even in seasons of testing, trial and other challenges that might come at you in life. I hope this blog will be encouraging to you, and even thought-provoking.
As I think about what to write on the topic of joy in trying times, I really don’t want to just blabber out something to you that will tickle you for a few moments. It’s easy for us, as Christians, to spurt out sayings that sound like they should be on a bumper sticker. You know, the watered-down cliches that are often true, but we lose their essence and impact when we overuse them in the wrong contexts.
Rather, my heart is to evoke something new in you and to awaken a fresh breath of perspective in your life. Something like the depths of joy I encountered from Jesus Christ through one of the most challenging seasons of my life. Something that you can grab onto that will turn your heart to worship the giver of life, even in the midst of struggle.
So, as I share what is on my heart with you today, I trust that you’ll be encouraged to believe in the true power of joy as it is grown through trying times. I hope that you will encounter Jesus Christ and that you would be set free to enjoy where you are positioned and seated as a child of God, even in hardship.
If you’ve seen the video then you’ll know my brother used to be a heroin addict and he was radically set free by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, what you might not have seen is the years of pain and struggle that my family and I walked through for just over 7 years.
While all of the dysfunction and massive hurt was going on in the background, we still needed to go to work, or university, and try to have a normal-ish life.
Please, don’t pity us. We have all forgiven each other and believe God has forgiven us as well. My family and my brother are the most phenomenal people I know (as well as my amazing husband!). What I really want to share with you is a few thoughts from my personal journey of joy through that season.
Questions for God
The questions I had for God were similar to the questions anyone might be asking when faced with a trying season. Questions like, “why me” or ”why my family God?” or even, “How could God allow this to happen to us, or to anyone?” The truth is that I really can’t answer those questions for you and nobody could answer them for me during that season either.
What I can say is that when you position your heart in humility before the Lord and seek His face, He starts to dig a well of hope, joy, and strength deep inside your heart. This is definitely not something we can manufacture in our own strength, but it is truly a gift from God when we submit to His hand and come to Him in worship.
Positioning your heart in humility
You might be asking, how do I position my heart before the Lord? How do I do this when I feel overwhelmed? I really want to encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to quiet your soul and to show you what this looks like. There are many different ways God will speak to us, His children, and sometimes all we need to do is take a few moments in stillness to listen.
God is a strategic, wise, loving Father and He will give you the steps you need. They might look very different from the steps He gives anyone else. Here are a few of the things I felt God echo into my spirit during this time in my life:
- Immerse yourself in the Truth: AKA read The Word and ask God for insight and revelation through it. The principles in scripture are often counterintuitive and counter-cultural, which means that you need to know them as true in your own heart above the loud noise that might be surrounding you at any given time, but specifically during trying times. There can be many voices coming at you through friends, family, loved ones and people you trust, but I want to encourage you to seek first the Lord’s voice.
- Get external input: Sometimes we do need to get out of our own heads for a little while and hear the thoughts from those around us who love us or from believers we trust. Another way to do this is to listen to inspiring podcasts or sermons from trustworthy leaders in the global and local churches. I remember reading a book that changed my perspective hugely during the hardest times. It was a book called One Thousand Gifts, written beautifully by Ann Voskamp (my favourite author). It taught me gratitude when things might taste like rubble because of God’s gloriously kind character.
- Push into your church community, and be a blessing: Another thing to consider is to connect with your church community, join a life group or start serving in a church team. Embrace fellowship, friendship; and allow people to love you, care for you and to laugh with you as well. I made lifelong friendships in my church community during our challenging time, in fact they were there for me and my family every step of the way, even if I’ve only understood the blessing of that in hindsight.
- Pray constantly, believe for breakthrough and commit to being hungry for more of the Lord.
So, What is joy in trying times?
You see, Jesus didn’t promise that we’d make it through life without struggle and trials. He made it clear that we would have trouble. But He did promise that His presence would go with us and in His presence we can find the fullness of joy. Even through the valley seasons, the times of testing and trial God is able to bring hope, refreshing and deep joy to our souls. Jesus shows us how to overcome, in any and every circumstance if we will trust Him and believe in Him. He has already overcome the world on our behalf, and so now He teaches us how to overcome our struggles by The Word of God and by His Holy Spirit.
These days, after a few years of rest and healing, I would define ‘true joy’ as something that surpasses our understanding and is way more than just a fuzzy, happy feeling.
It was in the moments when I would feel completely overwhelmed by the circumstances at home with my brother and my family, that I would cry deep down to the pit of my stomach asking God for His presence to come. I see now that true joy started to unfold and unlock in my heart in those moments. The minute we come to the end of ourselves in surrender to the cross is the minute we embrace the encounter with deep joy that is found only in that place of surrender, humility and accepting that God is good all the time. That is where we start to realise that there can be goodness in everything because He makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I’ll leave you with this, God’s heart is good. He wants joy to be a foundational truth and revelation in our hearts because that is an eternal, lasting joy. True joy only comes from finding rest in His presence, and through this, it becomes your strength, your rock, and truly unexplainable reality even within trying times.
Are you going through a trying time and want to experience God’s joy amidst your circumstances? (Read about What is Joy? for some more encouragement on experiencing God’s life-changing joy!) We would love to pray with you. Fill out the form and we’ll get back to you ASAP or give us a call on 021 701 1776.